Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blog<Weight Loss>

I promised this like 2 months ago, but some stuff came up that is taking up most of my weekend time (which I promise to blog about at a TBD date). So, as I mentioned in this post, I am trying to lose weight again. And I've got some other goals as well, mostly so that I have more motivation than just staring at the scale every week, and (more importantly) because who the fuck cares how much a person weighs? I want to look and feel good.

Anyway, here's what I've been up to for the past 2 and a half months. You can read some of my previous posts on the subject if you are curious about the reason for the stuff I'm doing. Looking back, I still agree with almost all of it. Now is probably a good time to mention that I am not a certified nutritionist, or personal trainer, or medical doctor, or workout robot, or whatever. So please consult your physician before attempting anything you read on the internet. Or don't, but just remember that you're doing it at your own risk.

I calculated my BMR at around 2200 calories. I try to eat that much every day. This will change as I lose more weight. I used the myFitnessPal app for the iPhone to track my meals for about 4 weeks until I had a good understanding of what I was eating every day. Now it mostly goes unused, but it was a great tool for that first month.

There's a funny thing about counting your calories and macro nutrients (Protein, Fat, Carbs). In order to stay under your magic calorie count for the day and still feel satisfied after a meal, you have to eat healthier food. The crap you get at McDonalds or Taco Bell is high in calories and low in satiety. So, in order to feel like I was eating enough, I switched to lean meat, salad, homemade sandwiches, broth-based soups, yogurt, and basically anything that you can find on the outer walls of the grocery story. This is where they put the healthy stuff. They put the processed stuff in the middle because it doesn't go bad and they don't have to switch it out as much. At this point, I can basically eat anything in my fridge or pantry without feeling bad about it because it's all pretty healthy (I am still conscious of the proper portion size though).

I love to grill, so I'll cook up 3-4 chicken breasts at a time and eat it for the next few days. Anyway, I feel like I get to eat until I'm full and that's about the perfect amount of calories. I have a pretty boring diet, but that's fine with me.

I also cut out sodas and I only occasionally drink caffeine (twice a week). This has forced me to drink more water, which has also forced me to get up and walk around more at work, either to refill my water bottle or to use the restroom.

Weight Training
Every weight loss plan needs to incorporate resistance training of some sort. It reduces the amount of muscle loss that comes with being on a calorie deficit You don't want to lose muscle because it's what burns fat, and by doing resistance training, you're telling your body "Hey, we need these things. This isn't a fuel source." Pretty simple.

As before, I follow (a modified version of) the Stronglifts 5x5 plan, which is 3 workouts a week. Squats every workout, and alternating bench press/barbell row, and overhead press/dead lift each workout. My modification is related to my running goals. Basically, I was following the SL5x5 program at the recommended pace, which is to add 5 lbs to each exercise every workout. The problem, is that I run between the weight days so I don't get the full 48 hours of recovery time. This lead to patellar tendon pain at around 75 lbs on the squat and back pain at around 100 lbs (with the patellar tendon pain just getting worse each increase.)

I'm just doing the weight training to accelerate the weight loss, the running is my real goal, so I decided to make a change. I first dropped the weight for all the lifts and I completely dropped all the weight for squats (just the 45 lb bar). Then I decided to only increase the weight by 5 lbs every other workout for each exercise. Basically, I'm increasing at half the recommended speed. It seems to be working well so far. I don't have any back pain anymore (improving my squat and dead lift technique is helping here), and for the past week my patellar tendon has been pain-free as well, which is huge because I was afraid I'd have to stop the running entirely to let it heal.

I added bicep curls because I'm vain (and because a bigger bicep keeps my iPhone arm band in place when I'm running). I increase the weight by 2.5 lbs each week, but I'll be switching over to pullups as soon as I can do more than 3 in a row. :)

I also decided to start doing a pre-workout/warm up consisting of planks, side planks, back crunches (I don't know what these are really called), and stretching/warm up type stuff. I'm now at 1 minute on planks, 45 seconds on each side for side planks, and 20 back crunches, which I do mostly just to warm up my back muscles. I do all this 3 times in about 8 minutes, and I stretch during the time that I'm not doing planks. The planks have helped immensely with my core strength. I started at 45 seconds normal planks and 30 seconds side planks, and I increase everything by 5 seconds each week. When I'm done with all this (takes about 20-25 minutes, I head to the garage for the barbell lifts, completely warmed up.

Overall, I feel a lot stronger. My muscles are more defined. And I no longer cringe when looking at myself in the mirror. I'll keep increasing the weight until I plateau either from the calorie deficit or from pain or injury. Hopefully the former.

The inspiration for today's post. I ran a personal best 6.75 miles this morning. It was slow as hell, but it's still better than I've ever done. I did 5 miles barefoot, and the rest in my Luna sandals.

I outlined some of my running goals in an earlier post, but I basically wanted to be able to run a 10k in mid-April. So my training plan has been as follows. Twice during the week, I try to run about 3-4 miles, focusing on not wearing out the soles of my feet, and lately, focusing on increased pace. On Saturday, I focus on increasing my distance (regardless of pace). My initial plan was to increase by .25 miles each week, but I've actually been increasing somewhere around .5 miles.

It took a long time (I was at around 3 miles max distance at the beginning of the year), but I'm ecstatic with the results so far. I've already surpassed the distance needed for the 10k, which was a big mental barrier to break through. Now, I feel like with training (and hopefully about 20-30 additional lbs of weight loss), I might actually be able to do a half marathon at the end of this year or early next year.

One big thing that today's run taught me is that I should probably start carrying water with me. I'm thinking about getting a camelbak or some kind of belt, because I already feel like I carry too much crap in my hands (my sandals). My thought is to just strap it to my body somewhere and not worry about it until I'm thirsty. There might even be a pocket or something to store my sandals while I'm barefoot.

Putting it all Together
So, here's my schedule in condensed form:
  • Monday - Rest Day (And sometimes a cheat day on the diet. Nobody's perfect.)
  • Tuesday - Run 3-4 miles. Focus on pace and technique.
  • Wednesday - Lift. Plank workout and barbell exercises.
  • Thursday - Run 3-4 miles. Focus on pace and technique.
  • Friday - Lift. Plank workout and barbell exercises.
  • Saturday - Long run. Increase distance .25 - .5 miles. 
  • Sunday - Lift. Plank workout and barbell exercises. 
Eat 2200 calories a day. I try to eat as much protein as I can and the rest I split between carbs and fat, but I'm not fanatical about it.

Results so Far
It's been about 2.5 months since I started the lifting and diet, and I've lost almost 20 lbs. This was my weight loss goal for the 10k, and I've almost achieved it (a month early.) I'll keep chugging along and occasionally adjust stuff, but I'm pretty happy with the results so far. 

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

Talk to you next time.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blog<Running> - Electric Run

So, at the end of last year, I started looking for some fun 5k events for the new year. I wanted to give myself motivation to keep running through the cold, dark, wintry months, in preparation for the 10k that I'm doing in April.

One of those events was the Electric Run. I heard it described as equal parts running, Mardi Gras, and electronic dance party. After doing it last night, I'd say that's a pretty good description. (It was pretty family friendly though. There was alcohol at the finish line, but no bead/boob exchanges.) 

The Costume:
One of the cool parts of the event is that all the participants are encouraged to cover themselves with lights, and glowing things, and florescent clothing, and whatever else you can think of. The race started at 7PM and the darkness really makes all this stuff stand out. When I registered, I bought some glowing stuff that was being sold by the event organizers, and I figured I'd come up with some way to wear it all before the race. I got a package of "LED shoelaces", and a 3 yard light up wire... thing.

On race day, I opened my package of shoelaces and found 2 things.
  1. There was no obvious way to secure the "laces" to my bare feet. They were too short to tie around my feet, and the battery/switch part was a little too bulky (and I was afraid they would come undone and fly off my feet or something.)
  2. One of them didn't work.
Fortunately, I am somewhat experienced with electronics (I have a degree in an EE related field after all), so I disassembled the broken one and found the problem. One of the battery connectors had disconnected from the circuit board. Once I soldered the piece back on, I realized I could make some modifications that would allow me to wear it as some kind of electric finger... things. Long story short, I transformed it from this:

Works good for shoes I guess.

To this:
I've got the electric touch.
It turned out way better than I thought it would, and I think it looks pretty badass in the dark. When I got to the race, I taped the tubes to my fingers so that it looked like I had some kind of electric claws. If I had to do it again, I'd get some cheap black gloves and attach everything to them. After the run, and 2.5 hours of dancing, the tape stopped working so well.

The Race:
I got to the Cotton Bowl about an hour before the race kicked off, and I attached all my glowy things.  I made my way to the starting area and stopped for a pit stop at a row of port-a-potties. I think about half of the 6000 runners had the same idea because it took about 20 minutes to get to the front of the line.

After doing my business, I made my way to the starting line. A sea of thousands of glowing, flashing, dancing people. They split people into groups of about 1000, so I made my way into the middle of group 2. I had a few conversations about barefoot running as the people around me looked down.

At 7:05, it was group 2's turn to start. The crowd counted down from 10, and we were off! We all started off slowly. There were 1000 people of all different running abilities, and the course narrowed not to far after the starting line, so it was claustrophobic for about a third of a mile. Fortunately, no one stepped on my feet. :)

The run itself was great. The first corner had colorful umbrellas hanging from trees above and around the course. There were floating balls in the water along the running path. Everything was lit up, and there was some loud-ass EDM playing. After the first mile, we headed out into the parking lot and through some access roads around the state fair area.

Unfortunately, the second mile wasn't punctuated with as many flashing lights, glowing stuff, or loud music. The course also changed from smooth pavement to a rougher chip-seal-esque surface, where I really had to pay attention to my form. Occasionally there was some dirt and even some gravel to run through. Needless to say, mile 2 wasn't my favorite part of the night. It was split up by a water station halfway through the 3.1 mile course.

The last third had some more light/musical stuff. Spotlights projecting moving images, big screens playing video, more of those hanging umbrellas, big inflatable archways with lights that were synchronized to the music. I started to pass the people who went out too fast at the beginning. I heard a lot of "whoa, that dude's barefoot" around this point. Unfortunately, the ground never got any better. It switched from rough concrete to that mixture of pebbles and cement that you sometimes see in areas that are designed for shod pedestrians. I crossed the finish line to cheers from the volunteers and made my way to the stage.

The Dance Party
After getting some water, I put my sandals on and made my way to the stage where there was a DJ playing more EDM. I danced for a bit and then remembered to check my phone. 7:55. I can only guess that I finished the course in about 35 minutes, but I have no way of knowing (there was no timing system.) I walked over to the tents, bought a $6 miller light and walked around for a bit. I ended the night by dancing in front of the stage for the next 2 hours.

I talked to a lot of people about running barefoot. It's a pretty good conversation starter for someone who isn't great at starting them. :) I got a lot of positive reactions, a few concerns about glass, and a ton of "whoa, that's badass."

I also shot some crappy video on my phone. I apologize in advance for the shaky-cam footage. It's hard to keep your phone stable while holding it with taped fingers and running through a crowd of people.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Jan 5, 2013

Hello, internet. I've decided to dredge this thing back up again. Long story short: I want to lose some weight that has crept back on over the past 2 years. A period, that had its good moments, but is mostly one that I want to forget.

So, my plan is to start keeping track of my fitness, my diet, and my weight loss (and whatever else I decide to track) in the hopes that the Internet Shame ™ will kick me into action again.

Part of it will be a meal and workout tracker and part of it will be goal tracking with (hopefully) weekly updates. Here are the 3 things I want to change the most, along with some goals for achieving the change:

I want to be able to run further, and I want it to be barefoot. I actually had a pretty good year last year.I did my first ever 5K with my mom and cousin, followed by another 5K a few weeks later, and 6K (billed as 5K, but was at least a half mile more) trail run to end the year. All of them barefoot (and all of them with my mom). I have a 10K scheduled in April (also with Mom), and I want to be able to run the whole thing barefoot. That's basically my goal. Barefoot 10K in April. I'll create a new goal after that point.

Weight Loss
I want to be down to 200 lbs. I had been hovering around 230 all of last year until the holiday season hit. I just weighed myself and I'm at 238. It's depressing after looking back over this blog and seeing what I went through 2 years ago to get down under 200 lbs. Lots of stuff contributed to the lapse, and I might get into some of it in this blog, but long story short is that I want to be in better physical shape. Partly because it will help my running goal, and partly because I want to look good in the mirror. My short term goal is to be at or under 220 by my April 10K. My goal by the end of July is to be 200 lbs. I'll reevaluate after that.

Less dependent on caffeine/sodas. I've been drinking about 2 cups of coffee a day and at least 1 soda, sometimes 2 or 3, for the past year. My goal for the duration of my weight loss is no soda (at all) and coffee only on the weekends. I like the way coffee tastes, but I don't want the dependency on the caffeine. This goal is mostly to prove that I have some self-control, and because I know that cutting out the extra calories will help me to reach my weight loss goal.

So, there it is. Starting 2013 with 3 attainable goals. My next post will outline my strategy for meeting the weight loss goal, as well as my initial food/workout entry. 

And then I'll probably cry in a corner because what the fuck have I been doing for 2 years?